SAFEWAY SHAREHOLDERS VOTE DOWN RESOLUTION TO LABEL ITS FOOD FOR GMOs

This is a message from Maryland PIRG’s Steve Blackledge:

Just over a week ago, I attended Safeway’s annual meeting on behalf of Maryland PIRG and U.S. PIRG to present a shareholder resolution to label GMO foods in store-brand products. And we handed a whopping 130,000 petition signatures directly to Safeway CEO Robert Edwards.

The company’s reaction? The board of directors was unanimously opposed to our resolution, and shareholders didn’t pass it.

But coming out of the meeting, I feel incredibly optimistic. Here’s why:

First, shareholder resolutions are designed to prompt a discussion and create a healthy debate — only on rare occasions do they actually pass. It’s in creating a debate that a company might decide to position itself on the side of their customers. You need to win support from three percent of shareholders in the first year to file your resolution for another year. Our resolution easily surpassed that benchmark, as 10 percent of shareholders bucked the board’s recommendation and voted with us.

Second, with each passing month there seems to be another corporate name taking action on GMOs. Perhaps you heard NPR’s recent “Morning Edition” story about Target and others eliminating GMOs in their products. To me, it’s no surprise that companies are doing this, as polls show more than 90 percent of consumers want the right to know what’s in their food.

Third, our message is eminently reasonable, yet powerful. Unless and until long-term public health and ecological concerns about GMOs can be dispelled with independent science, companies should give consumers the right to know what’s in their food, and the right to make an informed choice.

For these reasons, we’ll keep pressing on, seeing which corporations we can nudge to take a better stand on GMO labeling, and pushing to engage them in a debate about their products.

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Emily Scarr

State Director, Maryland PIRG; Director, Stop Toxic PFAS Campaign, PIRG

Emily directs strategy, organizational development, research, communications and legislative advocacy for Maryland PIRG. Emily has helped win small donor public financing in Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Howard County, Montgomery County, and Prince George's County. She has played a key role in establishing new state laws to to protect public health by restricting the use of antibiotics on Maryland farms, require testing for lead in school drinking water and restrict the use of toxic flame retardant and PFAS chemicals. Emily also serves on the Executive Committees of the Maryland Fair Elections Coalition and the Maryland Campaign to Keep Antibiotics Working. Emily lives in Baltimore City with her husband, kids, and dog.